LAST Friday morning, a chill ran down the spine of the nation as we learnt of the gang rape of an indigenous woman inside a running microbus in the capital's Kuril area the previous night.
People are inclined to believe that if the perpetrators of sexual abuse against women in the past days were booked and awarded exemplary punishment, the situation would not have come to such a sorry pass and the country would not have to witness repetitions of such ghastly incidents. Almost a year has rolled by, yet the perpetrators of a gang rape of an Adibasi leader in Chapai Nawabganj could not be brought to justice. This is inconceivable in a society we call civilised and cultured.
The country seems to be caught in a frightening coil of fear and trauma. On July 28, last year, three young men raped a 13-year old in Lohagara, Narail. The family learned about the incident after the trio released a public video of the act on August 5. Such dastardly crimes are act of barbarism that make mockery of human values, fundamental rights and legal protection.
Different human rights watch dogs revealed a staggering figure of rapes, acid attacks, murders and other crimes that took place in different places of the country in the last one year. In the recent past, newspaper reports revealing the sexual abuse of young female students of primary schools around the country left us shaken and disgusted. The litany is relentless and gets more frightening with each passing day. The optimistic expectation of justice being served quickly evaporates when people see a law enforcement personnel committing the same crime he has sworn to prevent or when a teacher sexually abuses his student either in the safe sanctuary of their home or school premises.
The statistics are equally grim across the country: sexual crimes against women are on the rise. According to Ain-O Salish Kendra, 123 women have been raped this year between January and March. Of them, 15 died. Last year, 626 women were raped and among them 208 were gang raped. Of them, 64 died and 13 committed suicide
In a spectacular stand by a court on May 26, Minhaz, a former teacher of Holy Crescent School and College in the city and rapist Shipon of Manikganj, were sentenced to life in prison for sexually abusing minor girl students. The exemplary punishment meted out to the culprits must be construed as a triumph of the campaign of civil society members against the Pahela Baishakh sexual assault and the rape of the Garo woman in the city. With quick disposal of sexual abuse cases during the last few days by the courts awarding exemplary punishment to the culprits, it seems that this sort of judicial activism will inspire confidence in the citizenry of the country.
The figures expose the ugly underbelly in a so-called cultured and progressive society. Analysing rape, social scientists say that rape is always more than just that, further adding that the blame of the crime is pinned on the rape survivor and the attitude of all members of the society towards them is rather cold and insensitive. Perpetrators try to control women through these sexual perversions that they think serve as a weapon to generate fear in their victims. It is disheartening that we punish women for taking their own decisions, for earning their own living, and for choosing to move out of the 'control orbit' that men have drawn for them.
Men and women who are far removed from the scene but remain silent on such issues also shoulder the blame. Rapists videotaped their ghoulish act in Narail and Puthia and later uploaded the video on social media. Tragically, there were no protests, no condemnation from political leaders, influential members of the society or the community against this dastardly crime. Silence, thus, has to be recognised as an abetment to crime.
Unfortunately, one singular cause that cripples the process of rape survivors' prospect of moving beyond the trauma is the nonchalant attitude of the police. The protectors of law in effect violate the law when they refuse to record their complaints or accuse them of 'loose morals.' Some of the corrupt police officials even destroy vital clues that are essential for booking the culprit.
In the present scenario, the law puts the burden of proving the guilt on the prosecution. Unfortunately, this well recognised principle of preventing the misuse of power leads to investigators being bribed, witnesses suborned and material facts altered. Rape trials, till date, remain lopsided and fraught with loopholes providing escape routes for the accused. The fact remains that trials are heavily loaded in favour of the accused. The last vestiges of decency have thus abandoned us in the midst of beasts in the garb of humans.
The writer is a columnist of The Daily Star.